Is there an actual H.264 file or is it just the codec that renders the video into an .mp4 or .mov file?

For an application, I have to hand in a portfolio with videos. Their website says that, "Videos have to be H264 format and pictures JPEG." Now, JPEG is a file format as well as a compression codec. But I've never heard of H.264 as a file format before. Is it possible to render video into an "H.264 file" or should I encode my videos as H.264 into an MP4 container?

1 Answer 1


I'd bet cash money they don't know what they're talking about when they say h264 format. There is a raw h.264 bitstream format, with the file suffix .264, but it's pretty obscure (I can't duckduckgo any actual documentation on what it's for, possibly when dealing with live streams from cameras).

Give them an mp4 encoded with h.264 codec - it's a format you can be pretty certain anyone with software that's not completely obsolete can play. Conversely a .264 stream is fairly well guaranteed to be unplayable in all but rather specialist settings.

But if you have any doubts you could ask them if h.264 encoded mp4 is what they mean.

  • Theoretically, you could use the .264 file with a reference container. Like a Quicktime or MXF wrapper that doesn't contain any tracks within that file and just points to other files on the file system. Reference files have become far less common with the reductions in maximum file sizes. Commented May 29, 2017 at 15:53
  • That's interesting. Do you know of any links? I liked reference files, they were really useful for post production workflows, but I guess dynamic linking in the Adobe universe does the same job.
    – stib
    Commented May 31, 2017 at 1:26
  • (BTW, I meant increases in maximum file sizes, above.) I don't have anything specifically for H.264. All the work I did with MXF and QT reference files was with MPEG-2. A lot of the work with MXF EDL style files (OP-2 and OP-3) never really materialized into practical use, so there hasn't been much call for newer codecs in reference files. Maybe on the AAF or IMF side, but I don't deal with editing and mastering much. Commented May 31, 2017 at 2:35
  • @Jakob Ringler - I like stib's answer, so I'll not add another for credit. Why the place doesn't ask for .mp4 and .png is another question. There is a ".264" (no h) file extension Format (Elementary Stream), to render modify this command line to suit you: ffmpeg -i file.extension -vcodec libx264 -f h264 test.264 [like stib said, it's unlikely they want what they are asking for].
    – Rob
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 5:29

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